I laugh every time i read about an artist in these terms “>>> insert artist name here<<<< is an important artist in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.” What makes an artist important? Usually when you break it down, its their importance to the art world or in art history, within that context theres a lot of people who remain untouched or unaffected by the artist though, the average person in society, some folk don’t know art, they just know what they like and what they don’t understand they don’t like?
Society or phases of history were symbiotically echoed through movements, art movements, these movements often encapsulated music and politics, one being the pre cursor to the other, if not simultaneously experienced together.
Socrates the great Greek philosopher said that “Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited . . . when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them.” Whilst musics dangerous potential can be argued for and against, what can not be argued is arts inclusion in this perception, that art and music often reflect each other, finding commonality and relationship within each other, ultimately supporting each other, giving sound to sight and sight to sound and having a profound effect on the outlook, culture and practices of a generation.
Look at each period in history, you will find it largely defined by the progress and change art, music and its respective technologies undergo, thus it’s political and religious landscapes change with it, reconstructing its moral commitments. Though we are speaking largely of the past, where each change was categorised as a movement or period, which was also reflected in architecture and thus fashion ie; Baroque, Medieval, Renaissance, Modernism etc.
In many cases such a tendency for such periodic change is but fashion and the human conditions need for something new and the need to impress and out do his or her neighbour in some way, whether its keeping up with the Jones or which nation & country has the most toys and money? Art and the artist can be used or abused to convey these things, so the artist is either a free thinker or a patsy to the times?
So who are the important artists today, what makes them and their work important, amidst a terrain of stillness, for the art movement has died and the banal and meaningless proliferate, so then the successful artist, the popular artist’s today, the highest earning artist’s of today, the Hirst’s, Koons, Anish Kapoor’s and Rudolf Stingel’s of the world today, are they important artists what makes them important? Because in all sincerity i can not see? There are no movements anymore, what defines these works, what defines this society, our world, for it surely is not the artist this day?
They distract us for a moment, then their irrelevance is cemented from then on. I think of artists like Vladimir Tretchikoff, the so called king of kitsch by the second of last century to now, the art world did not respond to him, resisted him and declared him common and laughed from their highbrow pedestals, though he was undoubtedly one of the most commercially successful artist of all time, selling incredibly high numbers of prints of his paintings, the public loved his work, he hung in so many homes his work’s appeal was and is undeniable!
“Around 19,000 people saw his show in Los Angeles and 51,000 in San Francisco. In Seattle, a rival show which included Picasso and Rothko sold fewer tickets, to Tretchikoff’s satisfaction. A million Americans finally saw his paintings, which then went on to Canada with equal success. This was followed by a large exhibition in 1961 at Harrods in London where he decided that the Harrod’s art gallery was too small. He requested and was granted the privilege of having his exhibition in the ground-floor exhibition space. About 205,000 people attended the exhibition”
Whilst the art world ignored Vladimir the public embraced him, his successes was measured by the connection that existed between his work and the everyday person on the street, what modern artist can claim such a thing, none! So what makes an artist important, one that change’s history and flies on the coat tails of a movement, an artwork that is so expensive that a gallery can not afford it, the profound artwork that inexpressibly connects with its audience and the one that hangs in every house at an affordable price?
Picasso was quoted as saying “good taste is the enemy of creativity” though he also said “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” No matter how you slice your philosophy it can be successfully argued against, even by a mans own words against himself, we are contradictions! However the words of poet Ralph Waldo Emerson ring truest for me “Love of beauty is taste, the creation of beauty of art.” Why can we not create what we most desire, that of love and beauty in our lives or are we filled we so much that is opposite and fail to see what we indeed need?
*The beautiful work of Sabine Gaffron.
We as artist’s have become either self indulgent and decadent or reactionary beings with reactionary work and therefore our work is largely oppositional, thus it can not be termed as creative or cohesive towards bringing life and breath to a much needed world, if art fulfilled its work then it would be timeless and not bound by age or movements, but structured by truth and not irrelevance of context and meaning, perhaps then an artist could be the herald of truth or even life?
When i first went to university and did fine arts a lecturer asked me “do you think art can change the world?”